by Adam Noar
Hey there, fellow presentation pandas. Similar to feats of bravery including rescuing someone from a burning building, telling off someone who cut in front of you in line, or covering yourself in chum and diving into shark-infested seas, it takes guts and iron resolve to design a really awesome presentation template. There are so many things that can go wrong when it comes to creating the perfect presentation slide, and so you must tread cautiously when attempting to come up with your PowerPoint presentation, because having a well-designed template is critical to your success. But rather than quaking in your Italian-designed business shoes and giving up all hope of ever having a clean and professional looking presentation, take heed. There are some fundamental truths to making really awesome presentation templates, and I am going to guide you through them in five easy steps.
Presentation Template Tip #1: Buy a Template from a Professional Designer
Especially if you are on a tight budget or are simply a bit of a control freak, it can be tempting to go it alone and confront PowerPoint or Photoshop head on and design a template from scratch, not unlike how Captain Ahab made the reckless decision to face Moby Dick. The problem here is that if you are a busy, busy bee (no doubt you are) and you have other projects to juggle, chances are high that whatever sort of slide template you come up with be lacking somewhere. Maybe the fonts that you choose will fail to match up correctly. It might be that your colors look like they were chosen by a colorblind 2 year old chimp. Perhaps you nail those two elements but you wreck your slide template with unnecessarily distracting elements which take away from the main focal point of your slide. Or maybe your formatting just does not add up.
Whatever it is, your audience will take notice. Why not save yourself the worry and leave the fundamentals to a trained professional? Plenty of graphic designers specialize in creating beautiful, seamless PowerPoint slides, and it does not cost that much to hire someone on to do the heavy design lifting for you. A great—and even better yet, free!—resource to browse for stunningly awesome presentation templates is Graphic River, which offers great deals on slide presentation templates in addition to serving as a handy general resource to consult if you do decide to go it alone and create your own presentation from scratch. As Picasso said, the greatest artists are the ones who steal the most—you do not need to completely plagiarize someone else’s design, but if you see certain elements that you really like, such as a gorgeous texture or lovely gradients that add depth to an image, you can always do your best to riff off of what you see.
But seriously, for an extra $15 or $20 it is a pretty good investment on your part to consider some of the gorgeous premade templates out there. There is a design to fit just about every taste, topic, and tone—from retro to corporate and everything in between. Here are a bunch of great templates to get you started.
Presentation Template Tip #2: Choose a Color Theme
Color is one of the big make or break aspects of a presentation slide that you need to be careful about. Ideally, the colors that you choose will match up harmoniously—generally speaking, you can use your gut to ascertain if the combination of primary, secondary and tertiary colors you are using goes together, but there are definitely other resources to depend on in case you are not sure which colors go where.
To give you an idea of what color harmony looks like, let’s revisit the title slide of this presentation. First of all, I picked a primary color that was strong without being too over the top or garish. A nice cool green, like the ocean when the sun is out and shining strong, sets a relaxing, fun tone. Orange—technically, somewhere between orange and burnt sienna—plays off the coolness of the green and gives a bit of visual warmth to the composition, as well as draws your eye. Finally, a charcoal gray color rounds out the trio and provides small details to offset what would otherwise be a two dimensional and boring setup. White is the primary color for the font itself, and you will notice that I also incorporated white into the pencil image. Using the same color between two different elements reinforces the visual integrity of the slide and provides a subtle motif meant to unify the design as a whole.
Furthermore, you will notice two areas of the slide where different shades of the same colors are used: Going from left to right, there is a diagonal partition where the green background goes from dark to light. Also, the bottom half of the pencil appears a shade darker from the top half. Both of these color gradations are used to give the flat design just a slight popping effect—without it, the slide would appear a bit more two dimensional than I would want it to be.
In case you want to know even more about complimentary color patterns and how to create visual motifs in your slide presentation with color, another great resource at your disposal is Design Seeds, which allows you to test out different color palettes. Design Seeds features color schemes adjacent to in situ images showing what sort of colors to use in relation to different images, sort of the same way that Type Genius will give you an idea of what fonts work best together.
Presentation Template Tip#3: Hide Distracting Elements
One of the most important aspects of creating a beautiful presentation template is keeping things as simple as possible. That is why it is so important to hide distracting elements that basically serve no good except to clutter up the visual field of your slide. In slide design, less is always more, and you should follow this tenet ruthlessly. Slides need to breathe! They do not need to be cluttered up with any of the following:
- Company logos (apart from the first page, maybe)
- Client logos (also good to include once but no more)
- Legal disclaimers (as a rule of thumb, you want to avoid using more than a few words on a slide, so legalese is certainly out of the question)
- Website address (include this on the cover slide or on your “contact us” slide)
- Header graphics (no. just no. All this does is cramps the slide and takes up precious white space)
- Long survey questions (presentation slides should avoid anything that will put people to sleep, and this is right at the top of that list)
So the next time that you are looking into designing a good presentation template, do not make the mistake of going overboard and trying to put in clever looking yet unnecessary images such as logos or photos or anything beyond the bare essentials. If you absolutely must include lots of visual clutter, consider creating more slides and dispersing the images across them in a less concentrated manner. There is nothing wrong with having more slides with less elements on them; there is definitely going to be a problem if you have less slides with more elements on them.
On the other side of things, if you need to have some cool visual elements on your slide and are at a loss for where to find them or how to arrange them, this useful piece will shed some light on keeping everything looking in perfect order.
Presentation Template Tip#4: Use Nice Looking Fonts
You are not in college anymore; you do not have to write out everything in Times New Roman or Arial font. Or Calibri. Or *gasp* Comic Sans. This pertains especially to creating an elegant and pleasant to look at presentation slide. Please, please do yourself the credit of using a font that does not scream “English Literature 101 Final Essay.” It really is not hard to find beautiful, minimalist fonts, and you usually do not have to pay anything to download them. One of the best resources for finding fonts is Font Squirrel, which allows you to browse a huge collection of custom designed fonts by some of the best graphic designers out there. Best of all, it costs nothing to download the fonts there and then implement them into your presentation slide, so you do not have to spend money to ensure that your slide looks its absolute best.
The reason why you want to use nice looking fonts in your presentation slide is because no matter how good your ideas are, if they are presented on a plain white background and in Helvetica, you will lose your audience to the crushing weight of boredom.
Spice things up a bit!
But before you get too creative, also consider that it is not a good idea to use more than two fonts. Anything more than that and there will be major visual inconsistencies in your design. Choose two fonts that complement each other visually; for example, use something bold and catchy for a header, and if you have a few small bullet points beneath, use a font that is elegant, slim and easy to read. You should also make sure that your fonts are not in conflict with each other—this happens when you either choose nearly identical fonts or two fonts which are way, way too different from each other. There are a bunch of other important things to keep in mind regarding font selection and if you have any other questions you should really look at this article on how to properly combine fonts.
Presentation Template Tip#5: Keep Everything Consistent
It is great to have varying degrees of contrast in your work, but there is such a thing as having too much variety in your presentation slide. When this happens, it looks kind of like a fire juggler attempting to unicycle against traffic while balancing a goldfish bowl in his lap and playing the harmonica. In other words, it does not look good. Inconsistencies can happen in a single slide, or sometimes they play out across the entire presentation, from one slide to another.
There are a ton of common errors people overlook when they build a presentation slide, so try seeing if you can spot the mistakes that I deliberately made here.
The first mistake is in the first slide. There is no reason to change the color of the font halfway through from white to gray. Especially on the green background, the gray font makes it harder, not easier to read.
The second mistake occurs in the second slide. All of a sudden the horizontal bands that run across the slide have changed in color from black to white.
The third slide contains a bunch of different mistakes that you should always avoid. First of all, the background is inexplicably gray when it should match the green background in the first two slides. Second of all, the font stays the same shade of white, which makes it almost impossible to read the words on the slide. Third, the word “elements” is not capitalized, unlike in every other instance when all the words are written in capital letters. Fourth, the horizontal band running across the top is the right color, but it is missing its twin down at the bottom. Finally, the font in the third slide is different than the first two slides.
Now you should have a pretty good idea of what an inconsistent slide looks like, so try not to make the same mistakes when you design your next presentation.
Now you know what goes into making a perfect presentation template, I hope you tackle your next big presentation with aplomb. Consider going to Graphic River and picking up a readymade template, or now that you know the ropes, try making your own.
But before you go, I’d like to know your thoughts. When you make a presentation slide, do you have any go-to resources that you use for selecting the right font, color scheme, or template? Let us know; we can always learn a bit more!
Lastly, do you have a friend that could benefit from learning about these presentation design tips? If so, email them the link to this post.
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